Ibn Rustam reports that in 261‑3/875‑6 the people of Dinawar collected 16,000 dinars, which were entrusted to a certain Ahmad b. Muhammad al-ュDinawari. At Qarmisin(1) he collected 1,000 dinars more and some garments. After an intensive search in Baghdad and Sdmarra, he received in Samarra a letter describing the money and other items and ordering him to take them to `Uthman b. Sa`id and to follow his instructions. The latter ordered al‑Dinawari to hand over the items to al‑Qattan(2).  It is reported that al‑Qattan had dealings with an agent in Tus called al‑Hasan b. al‑Fadl b. Zayd al‑Yamani. According to alュ Mufid, al‑Yamani used to deal with al‑Qattan as if he were the Saf段r(3).

The third agent of the Saf段r in Baghdad was Hajiz. His relations with a large number of agents indicate that he held a high position in the organization. He was perhaps the connecting link between the agents in the eastern provinces and the Saf段r in Baghdad, especially since al‑Saduq and al‑Kulayni mention certain persons from the cities of Balkh and Marv who contacted the Imam and his Saf段r through Hajiz(4).

While the first Saf段r seems to have led the affairs of the organization in Baghdad with the help of his three assistants, he may also have directly supervised the activities of his agents in the other main cities, such as al‑Mada in, Kufa, Wasit, Basra and al‑Ahwaz. In the last of these the leadership of the Wikala had been in the hands of Banu Mazyar or Mahzayar from the time of the ninth Imam. Al‑Kashshi reports that the agent of the Imam in al‑Ahwaz, Ibrahim b. Mazyar, had collected a large amount of money.

On his deathbed he revealed to his son Muhammad a special secret code and ordered him to hand the money over to the person who would disclose to him his knowledge of this code. Al‑Kashshi adds that when Muhammad arrived at Baghdad, al‑`Umari the Saf段r came to him and divulged to him the exact code, so he handed the money over to him(5).  It is clear from this report that the first Saf段r had already agreed on the code with Ibrahim al‑Mazyar so as to save the organization from infiltration and misuse by false agents. According to al‑Kulayni and al‑Mufid, a few days later Muhammad received a letter of promotion indicating that he was installed in the post of his father in al‑Ahwaz(6).

This underground system of communication between the Saf段r in Baghdad and the agent in al‑Ahwaz was similar to other such systems which existed at this stage between the Saf段r and his other agents in Iraq, such as Banu al‑Rakuli in Kufa(7).

6.2 The Second Area: Egypt, the Hijaz and Yemen

The main centre for the organization in this area seems to have been Medina. It is reported that al‑ `Askari had many agents there amongst the `Alids (al‑Talibiyyin). However, after al‑ `Askari's death, some of them denied the existence of his son, the Twelfth Imam. According to al‑Kulayni, those who held that al‑ `Askari had left a son received letters confirming them in their posts, whereas the deniers did not receive such letters which showed that they were dismissed from their posts in the Wikala(8).

Another report indicates that the principal agent in Medina in 264/877‑8 was Yahya b. Muhammad al‑ `Arid(9). Unfortunately, the sources neither explain how the Saf段r in Baghdad used to contact his agents in Hijaz, nor do they refer to the connecting links among the agents of Egypt, Hijaz and Yemen. However, it is most likely that the agents used the occasion of the pilgrimage to communicate with each other(10).

But it seems that the Saf段r did not keep in direct contact with his agent in Medina and preferred to employ slaves who were mostly ignorant and irreligious as the connecting link. He did this to keep the attention of the authorities away from such activities.

The agents in Egypt followed the instructions of the agents in Hijaz, especially as regards their contact with the centre in Iraq. AlュKulayni reports a narration attributed to al‑Hasan b. `Isa al‑ Aridi, who was probably the agent in Mecca(11). He says that after the death of al‑ Askari, an Egyptian came to Mecca with money for the Imam, but was confused because some people held that al‑ `Askari had died without a son and that the Imam was his brother Ja断ar, whereas other people informed him that al‑ `Askari had, in fact, left a successor.

Afterwards he sent a certain person called Abu Talib to Samarra with a letter, probably a recommendation from the agent in Mecca. In Samarra Abu Talib first contacted Ja断ar, asking him for proof so that he could accept his Imamate, but Ja`far could not produce any. Therefore he went to the Gate (Bab, deputy), who gave him a strong proof that he was the rightful representative of the new Imam (the Twelfth), by revealing to him that his master, the Egyptian, had entrusted him with money to deal with according to his wish. For this reason Abu Talib handed over the money to the Bab and received a letter in reply to his letter(12).

Perhaps the agent in Mecca had sent forward complete information concerning the case of his Egyptian colleague.

Yemen was a traditional region for Shi `ite tendencies. Al‑Hadi had had agents there since 248/862,(13) and there were agents who had direct contact with `Uthman b. Said during the time of al‑ Askari(14).

According to al‑Kulayni, the chief agent in Yemen during the time of the Twelfth Imam was Ja`far b. Ibrahim, who was related to a family working in the Imamite organization in Hamadan, Kufa and Yemen(15). A report mentioned by al‑Najashi indicates that the connecting link between the agents in Yemen and the first Saf段r was `Ali b. al‑Husayn al‑Yamani(16).

6.3 The Third Area: Azerbayjan and Arran 

The third area was Azerbayjan. According to Muhammad alュ-Safwani(17),  the agent there was al‑Qasim b. al‑ `Ala, who had held the post from the time of al‑Hadi and who continued his activities from the province of Arran(18) during the time of the Twelfth Imam. The Twelfth Imam remained in touch with al‑Qasim until the latter died during the time of the third Saf段r, when his post was given to his son alュ Hasan at the Twelfth Imam's order. Al‑Safwani does not mention the name of the connecting link between the agent of this area and the centre of the organization. However, he states explicitly that alュ-Qasim b. al‑`Ala was in direct contact with the Saf段r in Iraq through a messenger, who used to deal with him without revealing his name(19).

6.4 The Fourth Area: Qumm and Dinawar

It is well‑known that Qumm was a traditional area for the Shi段tes, the bulk of whom were Arab(20),  and that there were many endowments (awqaf) for the Imams in Qumm. Therefore, it probably received more attention from the first Saf段r, who used to keep in direct contact not only with the agent of Qumm but also with the other agents in the province of Jabal.

The prominent agent in Qumm was `Abd Allah b. Ja断ar al‑Himyari(21),  who remained in this post during the time of the second Saf段r(22). Moreover, there were many subュ agents in numerous cities with a considerable Imamite population, such as Dinawar, whose agent in 261‑3/875‑6 was Ahmad b. Muhammad al‑Dinawari. The agent in Qurmisin was Ahmad alュ-Madra`i(23).

6.5 The Fifth Area: Rayy and Khurasan

Al‑Kashshi's account of the situation of the organization during the time of the tenth and the eleventh Imams indicates that the latter had several agents in various cities in Khurasan and the eastern provinces, extending as far as the city of Kabul. Those agents, along with other sub‑agents, used to carry out their missions according to the direct instruction of the Imam. For example, al‑`Askari sent Ayyub b. al‑Nab to Nisapur as his agent(24).

However, the penetration of the movement into remote regions of the east, the rise of the Zaydite state in Tabaristan from 250/864, and the continual military activities of the Khawarij in Sijistan, which caused a great deal of trouble for Imamites(25), all helped make it difficult for al‑ `Askari to supervise directly the activities in each area. Therefore al‑ `Askari issued a letter ordering the activities of the agents in Bayhaq and Nisapur to be linked with those of the agents in Rayy so that the two former cities could only receive his instructions from the agent in Rayy, who was to take his orders directly from `Uthman b. Said in Samarra.

According to this letter al‑ `Askari appointed Ishaq b. Muhammad as his agent in Nisapur, commanding him to pay the dues to Ibrahim b. `Abda, his agent in Bayhaq and its districts. The latter in turn was commanded to hand the dues to the agent of Rayy, Muhammad b. Ja断ar al‑Razi or to the person appointed by al‑Razi. At the end of his letter the Imam pointed out that all the khums and other taxes which were sent by his followers should be given to `Uthman b. Said, who would then hand them to him(26).  Such a statement reveals that `Uthman b. Said was at the top of the organization before the death of al‑`Askari in 260/874.

After the death of al‑ `Askari the first Saf段r followed the system of communication which had been practiced before. Several anecdotes reveal that he directed the activities of this area through the agent in Rayy, al‑Rgazi, who in turn directly supervised the activities of the agents in Bayhaq, Nisapur(27), and perhaps Hamadan. There were many sub‑agents of different ranks below the main agent in each city. Al‑Najashi reports a narration which elucidates this system. He mentions that al‑Qasim b. Muhammad al‑Hamadani, Bistam b. `Ali and `Aziz b. Zuhayr were sub‑agents in one place in Hamadan and carried out their task under the instructions and commands of alュ-Hasan b. Harun b. `Umran al‑Hamadani(28). Al‑Najashi does not explain how the latter used to contact the Saf段r.

Al‑Kulayni, however, reports that Muhammad b. Harun b. `Umran al‑Hamadani, the brother of the agent of Hamadan, made his shops an endowment (waqf) to the Twelfth Imam and wanted to hand them over to his agent, whose identity was unknown to him. Thereafter Muhammad b. Ja断ar al‑Razi, the agent of Rayy, received an order to take these shops as waqf (29)in his capacity as wakil for the whole of Iran. This narration reveals that there was a strong link between the agent of Rayy and the agent of Hamadan and that the latter was below al‑Razi in the ranks of the organization(30).

Since the agents in this area held different ranks within the organization, it is most likely that this system existed in the other areas of the organization as well.

7. The Death of the First Saf段r

Despite the important role of the first Saf段r, `Uthman b. Said, no one gives the date of his death. Modern historians have tried to supply plausible dates. Hashim al‑Hasani thinks that the deputyship (al-ュsifara) of `Uthman b. Said continued until the year 265/879,(31) but he does not give any source for this information. In contrast Javad Ali states as follows:

"Twenty years after the withdrawal of the Twelfth Imam, in the year 280/893, the first Saf段r died, according to a tawqi, said to have been addressed by the hidden Imam to the son of the first Saf段r and the Shi`ite congregation, in which after expressing sentiments of condolence on the death of such a pious man, the Imam appointed his son Abu Ja断ar (Muhammad) as his successor."(32)

However, Javad Ali relied on al‑Tusi, who only indicates that the narrator, Muhammad b. Humam, heard the narration from Muhammad al‑Razi in 280/893; he does not cite any date for the death of the first Saf段r(33).

 Furthermore, it seems that the first Saf段r did not remain in office for a long period, because al‑Tusi reports that when Muhammad b. `Uthman (Abu Ja`far) succeeded his father, a certain Ahmad b. Hilal al‑ Abarta'i, whose death occurred in 267/880‑1,(34) denied that Abu Ja断ar was the Saf段r of the Twelfth Imam after his father.(35) " Hence the death of the first Saf段r must have occurred after 260/874, the date of the death of the eleventh Imam, and before 267/880.

According to Ibn Barina, `Uthman b. Sa`id was buried on the western side of Baghdad in the Darb Mosque. This mosque takes its name from its position at Darb Jibla, an avenue in the Maydan street(36). Al‑Tusi confirms Ibn Barina's report when he states that he saw the grave in a place which he used to visit every month between the years 404/1013 and 433/1040.(37)

Chapter 5: The Underground Activities of the Second Saf段r of the Twelfth Imam 

1. The Designation of the Second Saf段r, Abu Ja断ar

The second Saf段r was Muhammad b. `Uthman b. Said al‑`Umari. His kunya was Abu Ja断ar. He carried out his activities first as the agent of the Twelfth Imam and then as his Saf段r for about fifty years, having been the principal assistant of his father, the first Saf段r, from the time of the eleventh Imam, al‑ `Askari. According to al‑Tusi, when the first Saf段r died, Abu Ja断ar carried out the last rites for the dead man, washed the corpse, clad him in his shroud and buried him.






(1)Qarmisin: A small town in the province of Jabal about thirty‑one farsakhs from Hamadan. Ibn Khurdadhba, al‑Masalik wa‑l‑Mamalik (Leiden, 1889), 41, 198.

(2)Bihar, LI, 300‑3; Dala'il, 283‑5.

(3)al‑Irshad, 399. For the relations of al‑Qattan with the eastern provinces, see Ikhtiyar, 535.

(4)Kama値, 488, 499; al-Kafi, I, 521; Bihar, LI, 294, 295‑6.

(5)Ikhtiyar, 531.

(6)al-Kafi, I, 518; al‑Irshad, 397.

(7)al‑Fusul al‑`Ashara, 17; According to al‑Mufid Banu al‑Rakuli were the agents of the Imam in Kufa; however, after the death of the first Saf段r, the sources begin to refer to Banu Zuzara and Banu al‑Zajawzji as the agents in Kufa. The two different names  seem to refer to one family. Perhaps the correct spelling of this name is  but the copyist of al‑Mufid's work misread it as . T. al-Ghayba, 198‑200.

(8)al‑Kafi, 1, 518‑9.

(9)Kama値, 496‑7; al‑Saduq reports that al‑`Aridi knew the place of the twelfth Imam in Medina and guided a person from Kashmir to the Imam; Kama値, 497, 440.

(10)al‑Irshad, 401.

(11)al-Kafi, I, 523.

(12)al-Kafi, I, 523. Al‑Mufid relates the same report but both of them did not give the name of the agent of the Imam in Samarra, al‑Irshad, 401.

(13)Ikhtiyar, 527; al-Kafi, I, 519.

(14)T. al‑Ghayba. 216.

(15)al‑Najashi, 264.

(16)al-Kafi.I, 519‑20.

(17)According to al‑Tusi, al‑Safwani was the assistant of al‑Qasim b. al‑`Ala during the time of the third Saf段r; another report indicates that he met the second Saf段rin Baghdad in 307/919; T. al-Ghayba, 203‑5

(18)Al‑Safwani reports that Arran was a city in Azerbayjan, but it is well known among the geographers that Arran is a province and that its capital was Barda`. It is included in the great triangle of land lying to the west of the junction point ofthe rivers Ayrus (Kur) and Araxas (al‑Ras); T. al-Ghayba, 204.

(19)T. al-Ghayba, 204.

(20)Ibn Hawqal, al‑Masalik wa‑l‑Mamalik, 264; al‑Subki, op. cit., III, 230, 233.

(21)T. al-Ghayba, 229‑30.

(22)al‑Najashi 162‑3.               

(23)Bihar, LI, 300, quoted from Kitab al‑Nujum.

(24)Ikhtiyar, 542‑3, 527.

(25)Al‑Kashshi's report indicates that the relations between the Khawarij and the Imamites in Sijistan were tense. He states that al‑Fadl b. Shadhan escaped from the Khawarij when they attacked Bayhaq, but he died during his escape; Ikhtiyar, 543. Al‑Isfahani reports that the Khawarij killed an `Alid called Muhammad b. Ja`far b. Muhammad; Maqatil, 453.

(26)Ikhtiyar, 509‑10, 575‑8.

(27)al-Kafi, I, 523‑4; Ikhtiyar, 509‑10, 575‑80.

(28)al‑Najashi, 264‑5.

(29)al‑Kafi, I, 524.

(30)Although there is no clear statement concerning the links between al‑Razi and Hamadan. there is ample evidence that al‑Razi controlled the activities of all the agents in Iran, so it is more than probable that he directed those of al‑Hasan b. Harun, especially in view of this narration.

(31)Hashim al‑Hasam, op. cit., II, 568.

(32)Javad Ali op. cit., in Der Islam, XXV (1939), 205.

(33)T. al-Ghayba, 235.

(34)al‑Najashi, 65.

(35)T. al-Ghayba, 260.

(36)T. al-Ghayba, 232. Although Ibn Barina states that the location of the grave was on the western side of Baghdad, today there is a grave within a mosque located in an avenue leading to the Maydan crossroad on the eastern side of Baghdad. The Imamites believe that this is the grave of `Uthman b. Said.

(37)T. al-Ghayba, 232‑3.